G. I. Jukebox Presented By Visalia Community Players

Jun 19, 2013 | 2013 Articles

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon at the end of this article.

Want a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s anniversary? Join the cast and crew of G. I. Jukebox in a delightful patriotic evening reminiscent of the World War II USO shows with stars such as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

Originally coined circa 1935, the term G.I. has, since WWII, represented the men and women who have bravely served our country at home and aboard, protecting our freedom and the wonderful life we enjoy. G. I. Jukebox presents the music of the 1940s, but is a tribute to all G.I.s, who daily face dangers in defense of our nation.

from left to right: Chris Brantley, Rebecca Coffey, Jenny Ponce, and Darryl Smithey

Established in 1941, United Service Organizations (USO) were formed with the mission of providing emotional support for our troops. Even though the stars of G. I. Jukebox are too young to have had personal experience with the WWII USO, they have all seen re-runs of the shows and love the music from a bygone era.

When director Leeni Mitchell said the show is subtitled 1940s Stage Door Canteen, I was curious. A search of the National WWII Museum Stage Door Canteen reveals an impressive array of stars involved in the project. “Bette Davis served the desserts. Marlene Dietrich and Lauren Bacall danced the night away. Red Skelton told the jokes and Bing Crosby crooned.” Mitchell notes that in recreating the era, a “play on names” has been used for the characters. Can you identify who is who?

Chris Brantley (Private Chuck Donners) indicates that because many of the songs are medleys, the actors have the opportunity to change their characterization with each number. “I listen for the story in each song and use the lyrics to inform my performance.” At one extreme, Brantley is a frightened private at the other a smooth crooner.

from left to right: Jenny Ponce, Chris Brantley, and Rebecca Coffey

A theatre major from Fresno State, Rebecca Coffey (Sergeant Eleanor Crowell), while juggling three jobs, has found time to make her debut at the Ice House. “I love the music from this era. It’s fun to get to go back in time to the 1940s. You get to take the audience with you and they become part of the story.”

Veteran actor Darryl Smithey (Major Aubrey Murphy) is enjoying the show as one of his favorite genres. “I love the music. The other cast members make me sound good, and the choreography has been keeping us busy.” Smithey has enjoyed watching clips of the USO shows, especially those with Bob Hope.

When Jenny Ponce (Captain Betty Lamar) was asked how she, a recent graduate from COS in Music Education, could relate to a show set in the 1940s, she responded: “I have always believed that I have an old soul. I love music from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. That’s why I decided to do this show. I love that era. It is music that fills your soul.” Ponce emphasized that community theatre is filled with talented people who perform as a hobby for no monetary reward.

Donna Williams (Faye Smith) completes the cast and leads the patriotic songs. All the cast members and the director emphasize the patriotic theme. Smithey explains “It’s a good family show. You can bring your kids and your parents.

Everyone will like this delightful show.” Brantley notes “It is being staged at the perfect time of year. It is a patriotic salute to the mentality of the 40s. It is a show that is positive for positive’s sake.”

G. I. Jukebox opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 21, 2013 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 6/21, 6/22, 6/28, 6/29, 7/5 and 7/6 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 6/23, 6/30, and 7/7. Call for reservations 734-3900.

Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

Print this page and take it to the show to get discount:
Visalia Community Players Two-For-One Coupon
G. I. Jukebox
Written & Arranged by Rick Lewis
Admit 2 Adults for $14.00
Coupon good for any performance of the play.
One Coupon Per Family
Reservations Suggested – 559-734-3900

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now President of the Board and responsible for Box Office/Hosting volunteers.


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